How to Be More Productive on Your iPad at Work

Rock your iPad at the office

It is easy to use the iPad to get work done but to be efficient with it, you'll need to use the right features and download the right apps for it. This includes setting up the iPad to become your personal assistant, using the newest apps to draft documents, leveraging the cloud to sync documents between devices, and collaborating with teammates.

Person holding a tablet.
PeopleImages / Getty Images

Take Advantage of Siri

Siri isn't just for ordering pizza or checking the weather. Siri is an effective productivity tool that is bundled with the iPad and is best used as a personal assistant. Siri can help in many ways. Use Siri to keep up with reminders, set meeting times, and schedule events. Siri also takes voice dictation, so that you don't have to use the onscreen keyboard.

Siri works in combination with the iPad Calendar, Reminders, and other apps. These apps also sync through iCloud, so you can set a reminder on your iPad and have it display on your iPhone. When multiple people use the same iCloud account, they all have access to those calendar events.

Here are a few things Siri can do for you:

  • Say, "Remind me to attend the 9 a.m. Miller meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday." Siri will set an 8:30 a.m. reminder about a 9 a.m. meeting, which is handy if you need to prepare for it.
  • Say, "Set up a meeting with Chris Miller tomorrow at 9 a.m." Siri will block off your calendar for 9 a.m. the next day. The default event time is for one hour, but you can tell Siri how long it will last. 
  • Say, "Take a note that the dimensions of my desk are 36 by 24." Siri will open the Notes app and enter the information.

Download an Office Suite

One of the little-known secrets about the iPad is that it comes with an office suite. Apple iWork, which includes Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, is a free download to anyone who bought an iPad or iPhone in the last few years. Apple iWork contains apps for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations.

If you prefer Microsoft Office, it's available for the iPad. The iPad version of Office includes Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Plus, you can download Outlook, OneNote, Skype, and SharePoint Newsfeed.

There are also apps for Google Docs and Google Sheets that make it easier to use the Google cloud-based tools. 

Integrate Cloud Storage

Dropbox is another productive app for the iPad. It makes backing up documents on the iPad a snap and is great when you want to work on an iPad and a PC at the same time. Dropbox syncs files in seconds. Take a photo and make touch-ups on your iPad, do a deeper layer of edits on your PC, then go back to your iPad to share the picture.

There are other great cloud storage solutions for the iPad. Apple has made it easy to manage cloud documents with the Files app and the drag-and-drop feature.

Video Conferencing

The iPad excels in communications. Use the iPad as a phone, and between FaceTime and Skype, access video conferencing. When you're planning a full-blown video meeting, choose between Cisco WebEx Meetings and GoToMeeting. These apps make it possible to collaborate, brainstorm, and stay organized with a team of people.

Scan Documents With Your iPad

The iPad camera can act as a scanner, and along with an app, it's a breeze to take a picture of a document and clip the image perfectly so that it looks like it went through a real scanner. The best part is most scanner apps can copy the document to cloud storage, mark up the document, print it, and send it as an email attachment.

Scanner Pro is one of the leading apps that scan documents. To scan a document with Scanner Pro, tap the Plus button to activate the iPad camera. Then, align the document in the camera's confines. Scanner Pro waits until it has a steady shot, automatically snaps the photo, and crops it so that only the document appears.

Buy an AirPrint Printer

The iPad is compatible with many printers straight out of the box. AirPrint allows the iPad and printer to communicate through a local Wi-Fi network, so there's no need to connect the iPad to a printer. Simply buy a printer that supports AirPrint, connect it to your Wi-Fi network, and the iPad will recognize it.

You can print from iPad apps by tapping the Share button, which looks like a box with an arrow coming out of it. If the app supports printing, the Print button appears in the second row of buttons in the Share menu.

2:27

How to Use Your iPad as a Second Monitor

Download the Right Apps

If you need to take notes that are beyond the capabilities of the built-in Notes app, and if you want to share notes with non-iOS devices, try Evernote. Evernote is a multi-platform cloud-based version of Notes.

If you work with PDF files, try GoodReader to read and edit notes. GoodReader connects to the popular cloud storage solutions, so you can plug it into your workflow.

If your need to manage tasks extend beyond what the iPad reminders and calendar apps can provide, try Things. Things is one of the top productivity apps on the iPad because of its superiority as a task manager.

Multitasking and Task Switching

After you've loaded your iPad up with great apps, learn how to navigate between those apps efficiently. Use Task Switching to quickly shift between different apps seamlessly. To activate Task Switching, double-click the Home button to display the task screen, then tap the app you want to use. The iPad keeps the app in memory when it is in the background so that it loads quickly when you activate it.

Another way to display the task screen is to place four fingers on the iPad screen and move your fingers toward the top. For this to work, multitasking gestures must be turned on in the iPad settings.

The fastest way to switch between tasks is to use the iPad dock. The new dock allows you to put more icons on it for fast access, and it includes the last three apps you opened. These icons are on the right side of the dock. To access the dock from any app, swipe up from the bottom edge of the screen.

You can also use the dock to multitask. Instead of tapping an app icon to switch to it, hold your finger on it. When an app is open, tap-and-hold an icon on the dock, then drag it onto the side of the screen. If both apps support multitasking, the full-screen app moves over to allow the new app to launch on the side of the screen. When two apps display at once, use the divider between them to allow each to take up a half the screen or allow one to run on the side of the screen. Move the divider off the side of the screen to close a multitasking app.

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro

To boost productivity, check out the iPad Pro. There's a big difference between the iPad Pro and the iPad Air (or iPad) line. The iPad Pro rivals most laptops in terms of processing power, it doubles the RAM found in other iPads, and it has the most advanced display of any iPad, including support for wide-gamut colors.  

But it's not just the speed that will make you more productive. The additional screen space on the 12.9-inch model is great for multitasking. And if you do a lot of content creation, the bigger onscreen keyboard is about the same size as a regular keyboard. It has the row of number and symbol keys at the top, instead of making you switch between different layouts.

Learn How the Pros Navigate the iPad

To be more productive on the iPad, find out how to be more efficient while using it. There are a number of navigation shortcuts that can help you get where you want to go faster. For example, instead of hunting for an app, quickly launch it by swiping down on the Home Screen to open Spotlight Search. Then, type the app name into the search bar. You can also launch apps using Siri.

Also, make use of the task screen. You can double-click the Home button to display the task screen. Even if you aren't switching back and forth between apps, this is a great way to launch an app if you used it recently.  

Add Websites to the Home Screen

If you frequently use specific websites for work, for example, a content management system (CMS), save time by adding the website to the iPad Home screen. This allows the website to act like any other app. To save the website as an app icon, navigate to the web page, tap the Share button, and choose Add to Home Screen. Put it in a folder or move it to the iPad dock, which will give you quick access to it at all times.

Dedicated Email Alongside Your PC

Your iPad use shouldn't stop just because you sat down at your desktop computer. The iPad can serve a number of great functions while you work. Use it as an email client or instant message client, or as quick access to a web browser.

This works even better if you have a dock for your iPad, which makes it almost like another monitor. If you want it to act as an additional monitor, download an app like Duet Display.

Buy a Keyboard

Many people are surprised at how quickly they can type using the onscreen keyboard, especially after they learn keyboard shortcuts such as skipping the apostrophe and allowing AutoCorrect to insert it. The iPad also allows you to dictate any time the keyboard is on the screen by tapping the microphone button that is embedded in the standard keyboard.

If you plan to do a lot of typing on the iPad, nothing beats a physical keyboard. The iPad Pro line of tablets supports the Apple Smart Keyboard, which may be the best overall keyboard for the iPad. One nice part about Apple keyboards is that PC shortcuts like Command+C for copy also work on the iPad. And when used in with the virtual touchpad, it's almost like using a PC.

If you don't have an iPad Pro, use the Apple Magic Keyboard with the iPad and get many of the same features. The only thing it won't do is charge through the new connector on the iPad Pro. There's also a wide variety of third-party keyboards such as the Anker Ultra Compact keyboard and the Logitech Type+, which is a case with an integrated keyboard.

The key to buying a wireless keyboard is to make sure it supports Bluetooth and to look for iOS or iPad support on the box. If you would rather use a keyboard case, make sure it works with your iPad model. iPad models before iPad Air have different dimensions, and with three different sizes for the iPad, make sure the case fits your model.

You can use a wired keyboard with the iPad, but you'll need a camera adapter.